Where do YOU stand?

As I began to think about my philosophy on technology integration, as usual I was conflicted. Maybe I overthink things… maybe I over analyze, but I just kept asking myself over and over, where do I stand in regards to tech integration?

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Initially, I was thinking very literally about all the ways I do (and don’t) integrate tech. Like many of the articles I read, I was trying to check off mental boxes to make myself feel better about the technology I use in my classroom. My use of my interactive SMART board has become a seamless tool in which I am no longer fumbling to use (assuming it’s up and running and wants to cooperate that day). It is something that I am completely comfortable using. Self-taught in the inner workings of creating interactive notebooks as well as allowing students to share their thinking through use of the SMART board led me to believe, “YES, I integrate tech seamlessly.” (in this instance)

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However, this year we have moved to 1-1 iPads in Prep Senior. Therefore I have 15 iPads sitting in a tub in a classroom cupboard. We use them often…ish. I quickly realized, the use of technology is relative. I probably use my iPads more than most, because technology integration is something I am interested in. It is something I am passionate about. I am proud of the ways I have been willing to try out new ideas and have been inspired to take risks this year. BUT, I always think I could be doing better. Not necessarily “more” because I am aware of the SAMR model. “More” tech often means substitution for something else and I find it often takes away from good old fashioned, hands on, pencil to paper learning. (I’m an early ed teacher, we’ve got to work on those motor skills early on!) When I say “better”, I know there are so many tools I could explore. Tools that I haven’t been exposed to yet as I continue down my learning journey. I know there are tools that have the possibility to push me and to draw things out of my students that I have never seen before.

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It hit me! Technology Integration (to me) isn’t a mental checklist of ticked boxes or components. It isn’t a perceived progression of how uses of technology should go. It isn’t just about the SAMR model. Technology Integration (and I would like to make this analogy expand a bit further, to just integration), the bringing together of ideas of both old and new is a mindset. Integration is willingness. It is a camp where you live or a realm where you stand. I don’t want to go as far as to say it is a personality trait because that sounds more permanent. However, I do think there is a group of people who are like-minded, who may have similar personalities who strive to be, do and share more. But, I also think we can choose to move ourselves into another way of thinking if we so choose.

Should we all be technology teachers?

How should we be integrating technology?

This seems to be a loaded question. I felt inspired and really wanted to explain my thinking through a modified version of  “The Technology Adoption Lifecycle” (also know as the Diffusion Process). I can see extreme points of views depending on where one falls in the bell curve of innovation. A small percentage of us are ready and willing to take on all that goes along with being “tech savvy.” Another percentage will be suspicious, unmotivated and reluctant to change because what they have always done works well for them.

I think Kim is right that there will always be a need for technology teachers. This is a field that is constantly shifting, evolving and growing. It is a content area that is unique in that ideas are continually sparked, innovations inspired and it seems to be ever changing. It is because of the uniqueness of this content area that I believe we need people who are willing to try to stay on top of innovation. We need people who are “sparks.”

Let’s take a deeper look at my modified Technology Adoption Lifecycle and for a moment let’s think of it as a model for the teachers in our building. I’m thinking of this through the lens of tech integration, but in reality I would venture to guess that this would apply in any type of “integration” when rolling out any kind of new initiative.

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The Content (The Laggards)

You have the laggards, I know we all have them in our building: the teachers who do not have a desire to try anything new. They are happy being left alone and are often found with their door closed. It may be for a variety of reasons. I think they are often stereotyped as the “dinosaurs” in the building. However, I find there could be many reasons for their inability to dive into the “new.” It could be a fear of failure, it could be a lack of humility, thinking their way is the best way. It could even be a feeling of being overwhelmed and the thought of something being added could be the tipping point. Whatever the reason, these teachers thrive in an environment built upon what has always been done (by them) before. They are stagnant and have no intention of growing. They are content.

The Majority (Both Early and Late)

The Majority is exactly what it says. Have you ever heard, “the majority rules”? It is the majority of the people who set the rules. It is the mentality, the culture, and the common understanding shared by almost a third of the individuals that comprise your building. This could be a positive or a negative depending on if you share the same values and core beliefs as your school. The Majority isn’t looking to make big changes. They know what they believe (or at least think they do) and they set the rules to be followed. They stick together.

The Sparks (Early Adopters and Innovators)

The Sparks are driven by two mindsets: growth and willingness. The Sparks are those who choose to live “above the line” of what is deemed “normal.” It is the group that literally pushes the boundary. The rule breakers, those who wish to challenge the norm. The pushing of the boundary is the aim of “The Sparks”. They wish to bring more of the majority into the realm of risk taking, of being willing to fail, of trying out the “new”. They wish to inspire a willingness to grow.

Within the Spark realm there are an elite few. These are the people who are remixing ideas, the people who are highly creative and truly innovative (2.5%). They defy everything that has been done before them, by offering a new take; a new idea. I believe it is less about the person and more about the idea. If you have willingness and a growth mindset then you are bound to a novel idea.

However, I do believe we can live outside of the majority. We can strive to model what we are asking of our students. We can ask questions, share our wonderings, we can investigate, try out ideas and let those ideas spark new ones. We can read, study and soak up information. We can stay on top of what is up-to-date technology as well as what are best practices. The bottom line is that we want to grow and we are willing to do whatever it takes.

It is through our passion and our drive that we are willing to share what we believe with an audience. Initially, this audience may only be within the walls of our classroom. The audience may then extend beyond the four walls of our classroom to the walls of our building as we share our knowledge and really our way of thinking with our colleagues. Ultimately, “The Sparks” want to share their knowledge and inspire ideas by reaching a wider audience through the use of technology. It is a cyclical process where we spark ideas of others and are continually sparked through our own endeavors and willingness to “integrate”.

Going back to the question: Should we all be technology teachers? And what is my philosophy on tech integration…

Maybe the question is what kind of teachers should we be for our kids? The teachers who are in the realm of willing to share, of sparking new ideas, being innovative, want to grow. As a result of those characteristics, that type of teacher does integrate technology. They do it, not because they are required to, but because that is what we should be doing. They do it, because integrating technology (the right way) would allow students to think, do and create things that are otherwise not possible. These teachers have growth mindsets. The mediocre, what the majority says and the mundane are not good enough. These teachers want to “break the majority rules” and push boundaries. These teachers are innovators and inspirers.

So, my philosophy is to always work to stand with “the sparks.” To be in the realm that is willing and wants to grow, who wants to try, to fail and to share. In doing so, I hope to every so often have an idea that is new and fresh, that may be considered truly “innovative.” My philosophy is to keep up with the times and equip my students to be thinkers and innovators.

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It’s up to you… choose to be content or choose to grow. What would you want your students to choose?

If you’re answer is grow, then it’s simple. It’s time to integrate, embed, excite, inspire, try and do technology! 

Be a SPARK.

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1 Response

  1. Kim Cofino says:

    Awesome! I couldn’t agree with you more about mindset (this is one of my favorite quotes – yes, I quote myself, I know, it’s obnoxious). You would have really enjoyed Tico Oms presentation at #beyondlaptops this weekend – it was all about this topic. You can find a bunch of resources and notes on the Twitter hashtag as well as the website though 🙂

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